TN: 1989 Kalin Cellars Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon

Partnered a grilled prime rib steak with a wine I have been meaning to open for some time now - the 1989 Kalin Cellars Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon.

High fill; long cork extracted nicely; let the wine breathe for a couple of hours, but elected not to decant the bottle; garnet edged rim extended from the deep ruby and mahogany colour; full nostril filling bouquet, mostly spice and dark fruit; nice entry, smooth and full of texture; on the palate a mix of black currant and crushed blackberry flavours overriding some remaining soft tannins; long finish where the fruit continues to shine. I should have decanted as there was noticeable light sediment.

A bit surprising thst the wine was in such good condition, as I expected that the fruit might have been waning a bit. Don’t remember how long it has sat in my cellar, but probably acquired these ( a few bottles remaining it appears, although I didn’t check the vintage ) in the late '90’s.

Drank well with the steak.

Played the double CD album "Bill Evans “Live At Art D’Lugoff’s Top Of The Gate”, which was a gift from Bob Hughes. This is a 1968 performance with Eddie Gomez .and Marty Morell.

Hank [cheers.gif]

Awesome note.

Nice pairing with the food and music!!!

Given how tough the vintage was in California, that is great.

The 1992 is the current release of this wine (unless this is a different bottling), consistent with the philosophy of Kalin Cellars.

But I can see the 1991 has tasting notes back to 2009, so I’m not sure how many years pass between rolling out new vintages of this wine.


Kalin Cellars seems to be a (mostly ignored) classic of California winemaking!

I mostly hear mention of the whites, but this note testifies to the universal level of quality.

Hank was your bottle a Reserve? I’ve had the 91 a couple times, still have a few left…HUGE acidity in that one…drank well, and always fun stuff with a Kalin wine!

  • 1991 Kalin Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve - USA, California, Sonoma County (11/11/2009)
    WOW…this is high toned with sour skin acidity! Opens up to beautiful dusty cedar, earth tones, wintergreen tobacco, some orange chocolate, little Tawney maple. But what this wine is really about is a very high toned, sour cherry/plum skin, citrus acidity…kind of like a Barolo?? With the wintergreen tobacco, and the cedar and leather…it’s kind of cool! It almost hurts to drink…but very tasty! I thought maybe the alcohol was high…I looked…nope, 12.8. Interesting wine…and another shocker from Kalin! (92 pts.)

Posted from CellarTracker

Yes, it was a Reserve bottling…label indicates alcohol at 12.5%.

Hank [cheers.gif]

Kalin hopscotches their releases as they see fit.
Love the wine and the Bill Evans album!

I drunk a bottle of the 1986 four years ago and it was sublime. One of my top ten Cali wines of all time.

My understanding is that 1992 was the Leightons’ last foray into Cabernet Sauvignon, but I could be mistaken as they always seem to have surprises up their sleeves.

We had a 1988 around this time last year which was fantastic. I would kill to try the '86, which I’ve been told is the pick of the bunch. Though frankly I would be prepared to travel considerable distances just to try any Kalin Cabernet.

There is also a 1981 Merlot Reserve which I’ve been trying to prise a bottle of out of Terry.

The Cebernet bottlings all had fully four years élevage in new oak…

I don’t recall any releases of the Cabernet Sauvignon after the 1992 vintage, William.

I have pretty well stuck to the white wines from Kalin in recent years. My experience with the Pinot Noirs has been spotty. A Cuvee Billion Pinot Noir was touted on the web site a few years back, but I didn’t find it particularly attractive. I may have a few bottles of that wine in my cellar along with a few bottles of other Pinot Noir releases, but I generally pass them up following my experience.

Kalin’s wines are no longer being imported here due to a misunderstanding or difference of opinion between the producer and the importer.

Hank [cheers.gif]

Hi Folks,

The 1992 vintage is the last of the Sonoma bottlings of cabernet sauvignon produced by the Leightons from the old Pasternak Vineyard, as the vineyard owner had to sell this property. Terry and Frances have also made a cabernet bottling from the old Cresta Blanca vineyard in Livermore owned by Wente Brothers as well (there is a 1990 version available still for sale from the winery), but I do not know if they have produced this bottling in vintages subsequent to 1990- but, there may be some still in the Kalin cellars waiting to be properly mature enough to be deemed ready for release. There have been two other sources for cabernet sauvignon from Kalin over the years, as there is a 1986 “Potter Valley” bottling of cabernet which I have never tasted (but did recently acquire a couple of bottles of, so will try it one day soon, once they have had time to settle in from transport) and a Santa Barbara cabernet that was made from the Tepusquet Vineyard in Santa Maria that was produced at least in the 1982 vintage. To my knowledge, every single release of Kalin cabernet was labeled as Reserve. The Leightons have made one of my absolute favorite examples of cabernet sauvignon over the years (I would clearly put them in my California First Growth list for this varietal), and it is somewhat ironic that this has always been a bit of a sidelight for them, with pinot noir certainly taking precedence in their red wine lineup. And I do have to strongly echo David’s comments about the magical quality of the 1986 Sonoma bottling. It probably bears mentioning that of the vintages of Kalin cabernet that I have been lucky enough to drink (1990, 1989, 1987, 1986 and 1982), only the '82 from Santa Barbara was fully mature, and the Sonoma bottlings from the Pasternak Vineyard look to be easily fifty-plus year wines, so there is no worries about potential fragility when deciding to decant them ahead of service. I should also mention that I have had great, great luck with their pinot noir bottlings and rate them every bit as highly as their cabernets and would not state a preference for one varietal over the other at Kalin. The 1994 Cuvee Billon pinot that Hank was not enamored of sounds to me like an off bottle, as I have a bit of it in the cellar and have loved it every time I have drunk it- though it is still on the young side and I have now vowed not to touch another bottle for another decade! I will be doing a vertical tasting of their Cuvee DD pinot back to 1978 this fall and am really looking forward to drinking those wines and writing about them, as this was their very first vineyard source for pinot noir (dating all the way back to their very first vintage of 1975) and I have consistently found it to be my favorite of their various pinot cuvees.

All the Best,


I only tried the Cuvee DD pinot once, a few years ago. It was kind of ashy and thinning, interesting but not nearly as good as I’d hoped. And I like older California pinots in general. I guess with bottles that age, you probably get some inconsistency.

I’ve tried all the white a few times over. I find them quite distinctive, sometimes great. The chardonnay has always seemed kind of sweet and off-dry. Tasty in a riesling type way, but not really what I was expecting. I think the semillon was the one I liked best.

I might get one of those cabernets to try. I’m glad they exist, they certainly add another facet to the world of wine.

John Gilman’s report on the '94 cuvée Billion prompted me to open a bottle this evening and I did so. It warranted a tasting note in itself and I will post that separately.


I like to say thanks for the tasting note, but really thanks for introducing me to Bill Evans. Never knew him and now currently listening to beautiful jazz. Love learning…

Anyone have experience with Terry’s wines from Burgundy? Is there any way we could put together a Berserker tour/tasting with Terry? I know they are a “low-key” operation but I’d love to see their facilitiy. They are the Willy Wonka of wineries, so much mystery surrounds the why and how of their operation.

My one experience with the Cuvee DD was really underwhelming but the bottle had been purchased at the old Crossroads so there’s a good chance it was cooked.

I believe one of Bill Evans’ best recording dates was in Buenos Airies in 1980. The two-CD album is currently out of production, but once in a while Amazon lists used copies. Worth seeking out but might be prohibitively expensive.

Hank [cheers.gif]

I’ve had a few of the cuvee DD pinots that were purchased direct and mine have all had a very high level of VA. Not flawed, but not my cup of tea. I love the whites and this reminds me that i need to go pick up more. I might see about trying some of the cabs as well.